Saturday, January 07, 2017

On tiny hands, elves, and other small things

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!" - Jabberwocky, Lewis Carroll 1872

I read the news today, and to quote one of my favorite people, "Oh boy!"

Amongst other things, a story about a grandmother in Brazil who has been mistakenly been praying to an elf for many years.

Apparently she believed the little statue she was praying to  was of Saint Anthony of Padua, when in fact it was of a "Lord of the Rings" elf named  Elrond.

Also in the news - another small thing - well maybe not so small, but the representation of a small thing. A Prozac pill. The late Carrie Fisher's ashes  were carried to her final resting place in a Prozac-shaped urn.

A respectful and generous act by her family - acknowledging her life-long work in getting the illness of depression accepted as such; attempting to de-stigmatize people who in many cases have to bear this illness in varying degrees for their entire lives.

Elves, Prozac pills. little hands - well I will get to the little hands L8R ...

Other little things - our new social media icons and acronyms. WFT? We don't need words anymore. Are we going back to ancient Egyptian times when we think and write in hieroglyphs? That is what I am thinking ATM.

One can write a whole sentence in emojis and TLAs. Or announce United States policy using abbreviations in order to tweet a spur of the moment thought in 140 characters.

But no, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to think about those little hands tapping out U.S foreign policy at 3 a.m. from a tall golden tower in his Manhattan elf-land.

Let's hope that Brazilian grandma keeps on a-praying!

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number - from "Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

Second Avenue Upper East Side - William's home
I have decided to write a journal. My blog days are over.

It is just too difficult to get a single theme per post, and in any case I have been inspired by Helen Garner's "Everywhere I Look" - a collection of her essays and journal entries spanning fifteen years.

Haiku-like they evoke a period, a point of view, a piece of news, a family memory, with the last line or paragraph giving the reader a feeling of edginess, of a thing un-finished or a counterpoint. Always something more to think about,  to ponder.

Well I am no Helen Garner, but I think a diary or journal is more appropriate for me, at this stage of my life, and at this stage of society's devolution in the Divided States of America.

So today I want to write about William.

I only found out his name today, when I brought him a cup of hot chocolate from Starbucks.

I'd gone outside to see if he was still there, homeless at his home outside the Chase Bank on the corner of Second Avenue and 93rd Street Manhattan - worried as the city was under a weather advisory. It had snowed all night. William lives on the sidewalk 

I didn't expect to find him there this morning, with the snow and all, but there he was.

I asked him what I could get him today and he said, "Hot chocolate." Well I knew other people, neighbors, often bought him breakfast from McDonald's so I asked him where from - dreading to have to trudge up to McDonald's in East Harlem through the snow-laden footpaths. But he said he would like Starbucks hot chocolate - only two doors away.

I didn't know his name, though I have been stopping by regularly. William is a Reader and is particularly fond of John Grisham thrillers. I have given him some novels, but whatever I give him he has already read. There's an admirable honesty about William. Some people would just say "Thanks", but William always says, "Oh that is kind of you, but I have read it." He is specific in what he wants. And why not?

Today, when I brought him his Starbuck's hot chocolate, I asked him his name. It is William. "My dad was called William," I said, but he was too busy opening up the lid of his hot chocolate.

I thought of my dad as I walked back home. I remember being told how he - always a heavy smoker - unemployed and walking the streets of Collingwood in Melbourne in the 1930s - would look for the buts of cigarettes.

I don't know how my William survived the Great Depression. But he did, although the cigarettes killed him in the end.

Two Williams - decades apart. But the times, they aren't a-changing.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers

At the east end of town
At the foot of the hill
There's a chimney so tall
It says Belfast Mill.
But there's no smoke at all
Coming out of the stack
For the mill has shut down
And is never coming back. - The Fureys, Belfast Mill

Everything Entertainment Truck on West 57 Nov 10, 2016
When you fall over on the sidewalk in Manhattan, before you can even look up, you are surrounded by a protective blanket of New Yorkers.

Asking whether you need help to stand up. Whether you would like them to call a friend. Offering band--aides,  bacterial zinc sachets.

I've been falling over a lot lately and I blame Trump. Seriously. That's probably because recently  I have had occasion to be in mid-town Manhattan, within a few blocks of Trump Tower, where security men, New York cops and the Secret service are attempting to keep Melania and Baron safe (whatever happened to Tiffany?),and to keep the traffic moving.

It is a mad house. Tourists photographing protesters. Out-of-it our-of-towners - tourists from the rust belt - oblivious to the havoc they have contributed to by voting for the orange man, wondering why they can't get into Gucci to buy their annual Gucci bag.  Not realizing that our world has changed.

Trump Tower in the good old days of Obama
The day after the election I was walking west down 57 Street, just around the corner from Trump Tower. Ages ago I had arranged to go to a performance at the New York City Dance Centre with a friend. Pre-performance drinks at Circa.

Then suddenly - right on 57th, several guys in a large "Everything Entertainment"  truck were chucking large steel pipes onto the sidewalk.

I was distracted, thinking only about having our  pre-performance drink and arriving on time,  when a traffic cop came running up  telling  the truck  men  to get the hell out of there. A pipe rolled towards me and I went flying. Down but not out. I looked up.

The traffic cop, the bemused Bronx-accented pipe throwers, and half a dozen concerned New Yorkers. I lay there contemplating suing. I want a police report I told the traffic cop. She explained I needed a real cop and would have to wait.

I thought for a nanosecond. Sue or go to the New York Center Dance and  dine with my friend. No contest. I stood up, New Yorkers sanitized and bandaged my scraped hand.  I hobbled off for a pre-performance drink at Circa. A good decision.

Next week. Next fall. I was on the way to the Union Square subway. Thanksgiving Eve. Wanting to see the Therapy Wall.

Therapy Wall,  Union Square Subway,  November 2016

Dusk. Busy. Thinking about Trump and remembering Hillary.  I tripped over a hole in the curb.

Down but not out.

Injured. Frustrated.

Who are these people who voted for Trump? Believing that he would bring their jobs back? the Jobs for the people who made Polaroid cameras? For the  people who damaged their lungs  digging coal?

As Obama would say, '"C'mon man!"

Trumpworld: -

I'm too old to work
And I'm too young to die
Tell me where will I go now
My family and I? - The Fureys, Belfast Mill

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Deja Vu on the M102

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
 For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing - Bob Dylan, Chimes Of Freedom, 1964
Front Page of New York Daily News Nov 9 2016
Sitting on the M102 bus on my way to work. November 9, 2016.

Facing a row of New Yorkers like me. Commuters.

Staring straight ahead. No cell phones. No talking. Looking at nothing. Expressionless. We all knew what had happened the day before. And we all knew that we all knew. A shared feeling of shock and horror.

Where had I seen people like that before? Vacant. Gray. No words.

Then it came to me. September 12 2001. The day after our worst New York day. The day after 9 -11.

Later I read the Facebook posts and articles commenting on and analyzing how we had elected as president a man possessing no foreign policy, a bigot. A racist. A misogynist. An inarticulate man. A man who wants to build a wall. An arrogant man. Bankrupt on so many levels.  The orange man.

After work in the elevator, a neighbor - a NYU professor -  broke down and sobbed. "Some of my students were crying today," she told me. The Muslim ones and the black ones. They are scared.."

No words.